The Irish Diet

irish diet

Throughout history the Irish diet has been rich in oats, dairy and meat. This dietary pattern has been reflected in modern day Irish culture and cuisine.

Dairy products were the most celebrated in medieval Ireland, with butter, milk and cheese forming the basis of many dishes. Grains were also a staple.


The Irish diet revolved largely around meat – pork, beef and chicken, though goat, venison and game were also popular. Meats were generally spit roasted, boiled or mixed into stews.

Meat is an important source of protein and iodine in the Irish diet. Iodine is required for brain development, during pregnancy and it helps to maintain healthy bones.

Dairy is another important component of the Irish diet, making up a significant portion of nutrition in medieval Ireland. According to “Irish Food Before the Potato” milk, fresh curds, old curds and buttermilk were a common part of the daily diet.

Grains were a prominent part of the medieval Irish diet as well. Oats, barley and wheat were plentiful and often found in porridge, gruel, bread and grainy drinks.


While meat and vegetables have always been a large part of the Irish diet, fish is a lesser known staple. This is a shame because fish is high in protein and it has many health benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease.

Traditionally, the Irish diet was made up of a combination of dairy products, grain-based foods and meat. It included a variety of dishes, but it was also based on seasonal food.


Vegetables are a key part of the Irish diet. Traditional vegetable options included cabbages, onions, garlic and parsnips alongside wild herbs and greens.

Fruit was also an important part of the irish diet, with sloe, blackberries, strawberries and rowan berries all being popular choices.

Agricultural food production has been practiced for thousands of years in Ireland, and it has shaped the culture of this country. However, the current food production system is unsustainable in terms of its impact on climate change and food and nutrition security.


Before the arrival of the potato, Ireland was a dairy-based society, and milk, cheese and butter were a mainstay. Dairy pots have been discovered and literary accounts of dairy-based diets suggest that dairy was a vital component of pre-potato Irish nutrition.

Dairy is one of the most important food groups in the irish diet and it has a long tradition of importance throughout history. The irish dairy industry is a major global exporter of milk, cream, butter, cheese and infant formula.


Fruits and vegetables are essential nutrients for a healthy diet. In the Irish diet, fruit contributes to 20% of children’s total dietary intake and 4% of total energy expenditure.

In the irish diet, fruits and vegetables are eaten in a wide range of ways and include fresh produce and canned or dried foods. Eating a variety of fruit and vegetables also helps to maintain a healthy weight.

In the Irish diet, bread is an important part of most meals. Traditional breads include oat and wheat flatbreads. These can be wafer thin like chapati, or thicker like oatcakes.